Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Gareth Evans’

There’s a moment in the middle of The Raid 2 where an elegant young woman, sitting on a subway train, casually checks her mobile phone and then gently reaches into her handbag and extracts a pair of hammers. Well, the punchline is slightly quirky, you might think, but that’s nothing very unusual. Nevertheless my own reaction was to cringe back into my seat with a rictus mask of horror and alarm on my face – because, by this point in the film, you know that when anyone pulls out that sort of implement, it’s not because they’re planning to do up their spare room.

So it proves, and bloody havoc ensues. But, as I say, it isn’t really a surprise: The Raid 2 is bookended by characters taking shotgun blasts to the head at point-blank range, and in between features pick-axes, machetes, baseball bats, hammers, shards of broken glass, broom handles, and restaurant hotplates being put to inventive uses possibly not envisaged by their inventors. The Raid 2 is a colossally violent film; it may be the most violent film I have ever seen. If you have a problem with screen violence, run in the other direction. But, if you can stay the distance, this is quite probably one of the outstanding films of the year.

The_Raid_2_Berandal_teaser_banner_jpeg

All the key personnel from 2012’s The Raid return for this return engagement, principally writer-director-editor Gareth Evans and fight-choreographer-star Iko Uwais. Uwais again plays young cop Rama, who had such a tough time of it in the first film. To be honest, the connections between the two films are just a tiny bit tenuous, but: realising what’s gone down may put him in trouble with the corrupt cops at the top of the Jakarta PD, Rama joins an elite undercover unit in order to identify the bad guys. This involves doing some serious jail time while he befriends Uco (Arifin Putra), the heir to the city’s biggest crime syndicate , all with a view to infiltrating the organisation as a footsoldier.

It all sounds a bit like Infernal Affairs (or The Departed, for that matter), but then again neither of those films includes a twenty-against-one fistfight in the prison toilets or a brutal prison riot in the middle of a sea of mud. Gareth Evans’s achievements in The Raid 2 are numerous and significant, and not least amongst them is his ability to balance the gangster drama elements of the story with the martial arts thriller requirements.

There is a sense in which the crime drama storyline of The Raid 2 is just a sort of substrate on which the extensive and numerous action sequences are founded, but that’s not to say that this plot isn’t engaging and tense in its own right. The story is actually pretty complex for a martial arts film, involving personal and gang relationships, and while none of this is hugely original, one gets a real sense that time and effort has been taken to flesh out the characters. Certainly the performances are uniformly strong, eyecatchingly so in some cases, and even minor characters are just little bit more rounded and quirky than you might expect.

Iko Uwais gives a perfectly respectable performance as Rama, even though it’s pretty clear he’s on board for his proficiency in pencak silat rather than his thespian ability. Yayan Ruhian, who played Mad Dog in the first film, has an extended cameo as a different character, and mysteriously manages to make a machete-wielding sociopath borderline sympathetic. Rama’s main opposition this time around, though, consists of a trio of charming characters known as Baseball Bat Man, Hammer Girl, and the Assassin, and his climactic confrontation with them in a pair of epic fights is one of the most viscerally exciting things I’ve ever seen. Bones crunch and blood sprays but you simply cannot take your eyes off the screen.

It’s not just that Gareth Evans is a brilliant action director and editor, blessed with a pair of genius fight co-ordinators (Uwais and Ruhian), though this is of course the case. It’s that he really understands how to pace and structure the rest of the film so the fight sequences have maximum impact – he’s not afraid to include a moment of stillness and silence just to set the scene for a coming clash, or throw a stylistic curveball like sticking some Beethoven on the soundtrack for a particular significant moment of bloodletting. This is a long movie and he basically doesn’t put a foot wrong throughout it.

The Raid 2 isn’t the greatest crime drama ever made, and I don’t know enough about martial arts movies to say for certain that this is the best of the lot, but as a fusion of the two it is surely unparalleled: it is, at the very least, an instant classic. Hollywood must surely be breaking down these guys’ doors, but apparently The Raid 3 is still definitely on the cards. The Raid was a superb movie – this sequel is a quantum leap further on in terms of complexity and style. Quite how Evans and his associates will be able to improve on this film, I can’t conceive, but I am really looking forward to seeing them try.

 

Read Full Post »